Posts Tagged With: Quiet meal

Fast and furious times: Vietnamese at Le Gia

Copyright of Le Gia. Sourced from Le Gia website

Copyright of Le Gia. Sourced from Le Gia website

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Address: 41-42 Deptford Broadway, SE8 4PH

Area: Deptford

Nearest Station: Deptford Bridge/New Cross

Tel. No.: 020 8333 7491


Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Casual dining, Quiet meal

Ah, Deptford. The place was known to me primarily because of its history – its illustrious naval and maritime heritage, and its rather less salubrious reputation as the place where Christopher Marlowe died in a tavern brawl. And although I’d been to neighbouring New Cross several times to visit friends, I’d never dined out in the area. All in all, the place was a big unknown for me.

But now that I live in New Cross, I can appreciate the fact that Deptford is an exciting and varied place with a well-established Vietnamese community, presenting me with several good dining options right on my doorstep. However, the way that I discovered Le Gia harked more towards the ‘Christopher Marlowe’ side of things – the drinking side, not the stabbing, I hasten to add.

Nursing a massive hangover, I woke up after having unexpectedly crashed at my friends’ place in New Cross. Not willing to be more of an imposition, I went out in search of sustenance. Taking a curious and slow stroll towards Deptford, I chanced upon Le Gia, and looking at the menu, decided that this was exactly what I needed.

First impressions were a bit odd. It’s rather ‘hidden’ from the outside, and you wouldn’t expect a Vietnamese restaurant in what looks like an ex-pub. The inside is a bit clinical, the simple tables being dwarfed by the high ceilings. At the time they were playing Vietnamese karaoke videos on the TV above the bar – thankfully, for the time of day, the videos were on silent; I’ve discovered since that the karaoke is a constant feature of Le Gia, and in the evenings they let it all out by unmuting the TV.

The other thing that struck me, and still puzzles me, is that the place was and is usually nearly empty. Every time I have been (although the last time I went was a few months back) the only other diners have typically been a table of the owner’s friends. Usually a bunch of tough-looking and quiet-spoken fellows, I might add. You can draw your own conclusions from that…

Pork and stuff onna noodles - happiness in a bowl

Pork and stuff onna noodles – happiness in a bowl

This emptiness should be off-putting in most cases, but in Le Gia’s case it’s more than out-balanced by the quality of the food – which is why this place intrigues me. I love squid with chilli and salt, and Le Gia definitely delivers with their version: slightly crunchy-fried, a good level of salt and pieces of chilli lying around just asking to be eaten. The vermicelli noodles with grilled pork (and other toppings, depending on the option chosen) are delightful, tasty and filling; the one with grilled pork, spring rolls, pork hash and fresh vegetables is a must. Similarly good for the comfort eater is the grilled pork chop on rice – the rice is slightly sticky and soft, just how I like it; the pork is smoky and tender. Whilst those are the stand-out dishes for me, I’ve always been rather envious of the meals that my family and companions have had with me. Le Gia seems to be rather strong across the board.

Grilled pork chop. Happiness on a plate

Grilled pork chop onna rice. Happiness on a plate

And to finish off the meal, I always order a cup of Viet caphe, being in love with all things with condensed milk in them. It’s a sensibly-sized cup of the strong stuff and drip-filtered slowly in the traditional way. It is achingly sweet – they do not skimp on the condensed milk. Full marks to them here.

I’ve had a chance to try some of the other Vietnamese places in Deptford, but still I’m drawn back to thinking of Le Gia. So why has the place always been empty? I wish I knew. Maybe I’m just blessed with the ability to always go at the right time to get a table. Who knows…

VERDICT – Highly recommended. It makes for a nice local Vietnamese, that’s cheap and cheerful and serves good food. And you can always get a table!

Currently listening to: Sinsemilia – +2 Flics

Categories: Vietnamese | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Dark Ages weren’t so dark after all: Chicken Kiev and other comfort foods at West End Kitchen

Copyright of West End Kitchen. Sourced from West End Kitchen website

Copyright of West End Kitchen. Sourced from West End Kitchen website

Cuisine: European

Address: 5 Panton Street, SW1Y 4DL

Area: Leicester Square

Nearest Stations: Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square

Tel. No.: 020 7839 4241


Good For: Filling meal, Cheap and cheerful, Quiet meal

It is interesting to see that Chicken Kiev is making a ‘come back’ in London, according to the Evening Standard. Firstly, I am glad: Chicken Kiev was always a favourite school supper of mine, as it combines so many good things – breading, juicy chicken breast, butter and garlic – even if the execution back then was not always top-notch. Secondly, I am somewhat bemused that this dish has supposedly been absent from the West End since the 1970s. Granted, ‘sophisticated’ (as the Evening Standard names them) restaurants may not have been serving it, but I’ve been getting my Chicken Kiev fix for some time now in the West End. Gosh darn it am I being smug.

Welcome to the West End Kitchen on Panton Street.

It’s a small diner tucked away between Leicester Square and Haymarket, and has apparently been serving well-priced comfort food for many, many years now. I stumbled across it with my ex a few years back, when we’d just been to see a film; wet from the rain and desperately hungry, we couldn’t muster the effort to trudge to Chinatown and so we ducked into one of the few open doorways on Panton Street in order to dry off a bit and see what the menu had on offer.

That first time, I had the rather butch Pique a lo Macho (fried beef, chips, egg, sausage, onion, olives, pepper and cheese) that turned out to be a veritable macho mountain of hot and fulfilling food that would have overwhelmed lesser men. That and the friendly and irreverent service was enough to charm us back. Any time we were hungry and in the area, we would pop into the West End Kitchen.

Chicken Kiev at the West End Kitchen - yummy yummy I've got love in my tummy

Chicken Kiev at the West End Kitchen – yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy

And it is through these repeated visits that I came to appreciate their Chicken Kiev. It is a well-made dish: succulent chicken breast wrapped around creamy and rich garlic butter and encased in wonderfully crispy breading. It comes with standard boiled vegetables and new potatoes on a bed of adequately done rice, all of which are nothing that special when compared to the spinach and chicken jus of Primo, but then again you can have a very decent meal here for under £10.

And when you’re hungry and in need of some comfort food, do you really need anything more?

VERDICT – A good place. It’s a nice go-to place for a decent feed and you will always find a welcoming booth. And, now that Chicken Kievs are chic again, why wouldn’t want to be flocking down to the West End Kitchen?

Currently listening to: Horrorpops – Freaks in Uniform

Categories: European | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter warmers at William Curley

Copyright of William Curley. Sourced from William Curley website

Cuisine: Café

Address: 198 Ebury Street, SW1W 8UN

Area: Belgravia

Nearest Station: Sloane Square

Tel.: 020 7730 5522


Pricing: Medium

Good For: Friendly conversation, Loitering over drinks, Quiet meal, Ladies lunching, Sinful snacks

After a more than satisfying brunch at the Ideal Café (greasy spoon much-frequented by local cabbies; their portions are hearty and the prices happy), me and my companion were looking for a hot drink over which we could have a little wind-down and continue our afternoon of chatting. Our mutual friend had pointed us in the direction of this place that does “pretty amazing hot chocolate”, which sounded absolutely perfect for an Arctic-like October Sunday.

William Curley, the location of this “pretty amazing hot chocolate”, is not just a café – it’s a chocolate emporium. A counter filled with truffles of varied and bedazzling flavours (wasabi-infused chocolate, anyone?) awaits the curious shopper, whilst the shelves are filled with more sinful-looking slabs of fine chocolate. However, when prompted by the counter girl if we needed any help, my companion went straight to the point and said that we’d heard about their hot chocolate. To see her face immediately light up with a smile was a very encouraging. Even better was the way in which she then stated the favourites of her and her colleague; here are some staff who are fully engaged with the product and the concept, and who evidently loooove chocolate (our friend did warn us about this, as he’d decided to see what would happen if he told one particular man that he quite liked Cadbury’s). Feeling pretty happy with our orders, my companion and I retired to one of the booths which provided some quiet as well as a sweeping view of the length of the shop. This was shaping up quite nicely…

Copyright of William Curley. Sourced from William Curley website

And indeed, the hot chocolate was excellent. I had plumped for their gianduja blend – I am SO glad that I am not allergic to nuts, as I love them too much – whilst my companion was a bit more adventurous and had their chilli-infused Aztec blend. Mine was sweet and nutty, whilst hers had enough of a kick to really liven up the drink and cut through the darkness of the chocolate. I had been hoping for something a bit thicker (as they call it in the Philippines, Tsokolate eh – if you are ever served Tsokolate ah, then you should know your host is skimping and serving watered down stuff… which is fine, if that’s what you asked for), but sometimes my expectations are best left at the door. We took our time to savour the hot chocolate, and left thoroughly warmed. If I ever meet this William Curley fellow, I will salute him. Not shake his hand, but salute him… it’s that special.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. Given that they have taken to hibernating in cafés and drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate, I am sure that my mother and her West London ‘ladies lunching’ crew would appreciate getting pointed in the direction of William Curley. But as for my companion and I, apart from swooning from the lovely hot chocolate, we were dazzled by the display of sinful treats and, rather surprisingly, what looked to be well-priced dessert wines on display. This will definitely be a place I will have to visit the next time I’m in that part of town. I hope my friends who live nearby continue to give me a good reason to come over!

Currently listening to: Mastodon – Curl of the Burl

Categories: Café | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment